Each July, Pa Khoun (Wallago Leeri*), an endangered cat fish species, migrates to Hom District, Vientiane Province for breeding and spawning. The Nam Khui and Nam Saan rivers meet in Hom and this spot is the only known area for Pa Khoun breeding and spawning. Each year around this time, the rivers become packed with fishing boats as both local villagers and outsiders try to catch as many Pa Khoun as possible while they are plentiful in the area.
However, in recent years, Hom District authorities have noticed a decline in Pa Khoun catch. As such, Hom District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO) officials began searching for additional support for Pa Khoun conservation.
The United States Embassy has agreed to fund the “Pa Khoun Conservation Initiative” which involves establishment of a fish conservation zone through collaboration with the local community and local authorities. The conservation zone will be created through the development of regulations and enhancing the capacity of both district officials and the local community to monitor and patrol it.
On July 14, the US Ambassador, Karen Stewart, joined Hom district officials, representatives of the Living Aquatic Resource Research Center (LARREC), the Department of Livestock and Fisheries, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Lao PDR to launch this project with an official signing ceremony.
IUCN Lao PDR Country Representative, Madame Latsamay Sylavong noted that this initiative is not the first one of its kind in Lao PDR, however it is the first in Hom district.
“It is essential for the district to focus on Pa Khoun as both a local and national flagship species and that this sort of conservation initiative requires effective collaboration with the local community and local authorities,” she explained.
The Conservation Initiative will be lead by the Hom DAFO with technical support from IUCN, LARREC, and the Department of Livestock and Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
* Recent studies have indicated that Wallago Leeri in the Mekong region is actually a misidentification of Wallago micropogon. The correct classification of Pa Khoun will be clarified during this project.